Our favorite beaches – Final 2nd Anniversary Post

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Dauphin Island Beach

This last installment of our 2nd year anniversary celebration week postings is a new category that will appear only once.  We jammed along the coastlines of both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic ocean last year (Mar 1, 2013 to Feb 28, 2014).  I thought it would be fun (and possibly helpful to others) to share our favorite beaches during that journey. Walking on the beach, enjoying the smell of the salt air, the sounds of the water, the hypnotizing rolling waves, the crunching of the shells, and the birds entertaining us made the saying ” life’s a beach” a reality for us.

Our selection is obviously colored by the fact that we visited many of these beaches off season, hence the overall experience was enhanced by the lack of noisy crowds.  Many times we enjoyed the solitude with just the birds keeping us company.

So, in no particular order – since it was too difficult to pick a favorite – below are the beach experiences that we will miss and remember most fondly as we travel the midsection of the country this year.  As before, the blue link with the location name is a link to more information about that spot, and the month we were there.  The “Click our related post here” goes to our blog about it.

Dauphin Island, Alabama – March

Betsy was parked across from the public access to the beach, so we had no issues with parking or entrance fees.  The water was blue and calm with small waves.  With no huge attractions or condo buildings lining the beach, it was a very quiet, unspoiled place to just enjoy walking the stretch of white sand and dunes.  We loved watching the birds and gorgeous sunsets so much that we’re going out of our way to spend a couple more weeks there at the end of this March!

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Dauphin Island Beach

Dauphin Island Beach

Rosamond Johnson Beach – Perdido Key, Florida – April

This beach is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and is considered among the whitest, most beautiful sand beaches in America.  It is considered an excellent example of a pristine Florida Panhandle beach.  With no commercial buildings or residential homes, it remains unspoiled and beautiful.

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Gulf Shore National Seashore

Kitty Hawk Beach – Outer Banks, North Carolina – October

Betsy was parked just across the street from the beach, making it a pleasure to jump out of bed in the morning and run over to get sunrise photos and hang out, or to take a long walk.  There were no tall condos or hotels along the beach and the area was characterized as low to medium density, single-family residential developments – mainly running small businesses.  Our memories are of sunrises painting the sky with colorful pastels of orange, pink and yellow.

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Kitty Hawk, Outerbanks, NC

Kitty Hawk Beach

Glorious sunrise at Kitty Hawk

Bonita Beach Park – Bonita Springs, Florida – January

The beach got crowded with snowbirds as the day progressed, but not early in the morning when we arrived to take our walks.  The shorebirds were plentiful and fat, hanging around and waiting for the equally fat tourists to feed them.  Although the beach is not known for shelling, we could hear our steps crunching as we walked on piles of sea shells.

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Bonita Beach Park

Bonita Beach, FLorida

These guys ignore anyone who won’t feed them – and we never do!

Marconi Beach – Cape Cod, Massachusetts – September

This gorgeous beach is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, and the moment you look out from the bluff you become mesmerized by the miles of white sand beach and the huge steep sand cliff located behind the surf line.  The beach is beautiful and serene, providing an unbroken, pristine natural scene in all directions.

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Marconi Beach, Cape Cod

Marconi Beach looking north

Marconi Beach, Cape Cod

Marconi Beach looking south

How about you?  What’s your favorite beach to spend time at?

Next up:  Real fun in the “Real Florida”…

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The Smallest Town in the Smallest State – Block Island, RI

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Mohegan Bluffs
Lea and I

High school classmates, Lea and yours truly.

The next stop on our continuing trek south happened to land us in the smallest state in the union, Rhode Island.  While staying in the quaint coastal town of Narragansett, we met up with my friends Lea and Joanne.  They urged us to take a quick trip back into Massachusetts to visit Cape Cod.  Since we were staying only about an hour and a half from the Cape at Fisherman’s Memorial State Park in RI (click here to see Steve’s review), we said “what the heck, let’s go for it!”.

Cape Cod Welcome

Cape Cod welcome “sign”.

We took scenic route 6A from Bourne to Orleans, then continued on to 6 East all the way to Cape Cod National Seashore.  This was a pretty, scenic drive that led us over narrow and winding roads. The route where graced by  hundreds of historical homes which must conform to strictly enforced building codes and preservation efforts.  At the end of our long drive, a surprise awaited us – Marconi Beach!

Marconi Beach,Cape Cod National Seashore

Miles and miles of beauty at Marconi Beach.

A broad, sweeping view of the Atlantic Ocean can be enjoyed from atop an overlook on the steep sand cliff.  We saw miles of clay-colored cliffs and clean white beach.  Marconi is just one of several beaches along this stretch, referred to by Henry David Thoreau as “The Great Beach”.  We strolled along for a while, goofing off and taking in the fresh ocean air.  And the best part?  Since we were here at the end of September, only a handful of folks were around on this beautiful Sunday afternoon!

Marconi Beach

Just another day at the beach, we never get tired of this!

Now, back to Rhode Island.  As we arrived there, hints of autumn foliage could finally be seen along I-95S.

Autumn Foliage, I-95S

Less famous than Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard of Massachusetts, Block Island sits 13 miles off the southern coast of Rhode Island.  At only 10 square miles in size, it’s a gem of a seaside resort.  Steve had heard of it in the past, but didn’t even know where it was until a few days before we arrived in the state.

BlockIsland

Block Island, RI

We learned that the entire perimenter of the 3-by-7 mile island can be best enjoyed on a bike.  Hey, we’re up for that!  A great reason to take down our bikes, catch a ferry to the island and spend the day riding around it.  And to make it even better, the weather just happened to be perfect.

Block Island Ferry

There are two ways to access BI by ferry – catch the “high speed” which takes only 30 minutes to get across, or for a bit less money take the “traditional” ferry which is larger to accommodate vehicles and takes 55 minutes.  We did both, since the high speed ferry left earlier in the morning and the traditional ferry had an afternoon schedule that worked better for us.  They were both very efficient and easy to access.

While on the high speed ferry, we sat next to a couple – Susanne and Allan – who are regular visitors to the island.  They gave us lots of recommendations on what to see and where to eat as we biked around.  Since Allan is a pilot, he and Steve had a lot to talk about and before we knew it we were pulling into the harbor.  After getting our bikes, we headed toward the north end of the island.  There, at the end of the road, is a rock that marks the landing site of the European settlers on BI in 1661.

Settlers Rock

Settlers Rock

Further ahead and down the beach we could also see the Northern Light, the fourth lighthouse to inhabit the shifting sands of Block Island ‘s Sandy Point.

North Lighthouse

North Light

Great Salt Pond

Great Salt Pond

Retracing our path, we headed toward the south end of the island and stopped at Mohegan Bluffs.  The bluffs rise abruptly to a height of about 200 feet above the sea, and stretch for nearly three miles along the southern shore.  The beach can be accessed via 143 wooden steps, and yes, we went to the bottom and then huffed and puffed all the way back up to the top!

Mohegan Bluffs

Mohegan Bluffs

The most famous lighthouse on the island, which was relocated in the 1990’s due to beach erosion, is the South East Lighthouse.  This lighthouse has a large lens in its huge red brick beacon, and is now an National Historic Landmark.

South East Lighthouse

South East Lighthouse

Many renovated Victorian hotels built in the 1800’s reside at the heart of the village overlooking the Old Harbor.  These charming hotels feature full-service restaurants and provide comfortable lodging for folks who want to stay longer than a day.

At the end of our long ride, a cold beer and tasty lunch at Ballard’s Beach capped the afternoon perfectly.

Ballards Beach

Lunch at Ballards Beach

Block Island has incredibly varied and beautiful natural features, from the ocean to rolling hills.  Biking around the island is definitely the best way to enjoy it, and the number of folks doing just that proved it.  The bike route shares the road with other vehicles, and is varied with long flats intermingled with small hills and just a few fairly steep ones 😦  Because of its size, Block Island is billed as the smallest town in the smallest state of Rhode island.

Block  Island

But wait – our bike ride wasn’t over just yet.  Since our campground was only 1.5 miles from the harbor and there was a nice bike lane along the way, we decided to save the $8.00 parking fee and just ride there.  So, after the ferry docked back at Point Judith we still had a mile and a half to go.That last ride was a bit tough after riding all day and then sitting on the ferry, but it brought our total to a respectable 18.5 miles for the day.

Narragansett, RI

Approaching Narragansett on the ferry – the harbor is to the right and has several excellent seafood markets and restaurants.

We were beat when we arrived home, but we had a wonderful day on the island.  Not to be missed if you are in the area!

Fisherman's Memorial State Park

Betsy awaits us at our nice site at Fisherman’s Memorial State Park.

Next Up:  A quick stop at Clinton, CT, then onward to the Big Apple!

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Discovering our Revolutionary past in modern Boston, MA

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After filling ourselves with Lobstah and hugging Maine’s coastline, we began our journey southward, making our next stop Boston, Massachusetts.  Our friends Don and Lisa had lent us a documentary entitled “America, The Story of Us”, which portrays more than 400 years of American history . The first two episodes tell the story of the beginning of America in the 1600’s, including the subsequent American Revolution in the struggle against British rule in the 18th century.  History buffs know that Boston became a focal point of revolutionary activities during that time.  We recommend this DVD set to anyone traveling this way and trying to bone up on American history, as we’ve been doing.  It helped to “fill in some holes” in our learning and was helpful and entertaining.

State Street, Boston

“CHARGE!” – Oh, I mean walk this way, dudes”

Traveling back through Revolutionary Boston would take several days of walking around the city because of the large number of historic landmarks and monuments.  So, we hopped on a city tour one day and then experienced the city on foot the next.  Not nearly enough, but a pretty good way to get a cohesive story of an exciting historic period.

Following the Freedom Trail, created in 1951, is a good way to discover Boston’s historic sites amidst its currently bustling cosmopolitan.  It’s a 2.5-mile trail that led us to scenes of critical events in Boston and the nation’s struggle for freedom.  It really highlights the city’s role in laying the foundation for the new USA.  I’ll try not to bore you with tedious history you probably know, but rather a few highlights we observed.

The DVD documentary taught us a lot about Paul Revere (The Midnight Rider), the Boston massacre and the Revolution’s first major battle at Breed’s Hill.  The Brits were called Redcoats then, and although we aren’t historians we were glad to be armed with this tidbit of knowledge when we hit Boston for more learning and fun.

We stopped by Copp’s Hill, the second oldest cemetery in Boston, where several people buried there were born during the 16th century.

On the roof of Fanueil Hall (often referred to as the cradle of liberty) is a grasshopper weathervane – the only part of the hall which remains unmodified from the original 1742 structure.

Grasshopper Weathervane

Symbol of Fanueil Hall

Also known as “Old Ironsides”, the USS Constitution was put to sea in 1798.  It is the oldest commissioned warship remaining afloat in the world and has been renovated, refurbished, and repaired many times.  Since it is still a commissioned vessel, it is staffed by U.S. service personnel and security check is required for all visitors.  It was strange to see uniformed Navy folks guiding tours around a ship with dozens of canon on it, as if it were a modern destroyer.  But this ship remains a symbol of America’s rich naval history.

USS Constitution

USS Constitution

On the other hand, Copley Square was a unique architectural delight featuring old and new.  Standing in the square, we were in awe of an eyeful of buildings in a variety of styles.  The tallest building in New England is the John Hancock Tower, which sits across the street from the Trinity Church, which was built between 1872-1877.  The church is the most prominent landmark in Copley Square.

Copley Square

The new Hancock Building towering over the old Trinity Church at Copley Square.

Trinity Church, Boston

Reflection of Trinity Church on the Hancock building.

Across the square from the Trinity Church is the Boston Public Library, built in 1895.  It is the first publicly-supported municipal library in America.  We were wowed the instant we walked into the vestibule and then the entrance hall, which contains a magnificent marbled staircase (and we don’t use the word “magnificent” very often).

Boston Public Library

Boston Public Library’s marbled staircase

Entrance Hall, Boston Public Library

Boston Public Library entrance hall.

Beacon Hill is a fascinating early 19th century neighborhood with narrow streets.  The row houses are nearly all built in brick, streets are paved with cobblestones and street lighting is done via old-style gas lit lamps.  Don’t even think about wearing stilleto heels on these streets!

Beacon Hill

Beautiful brick houses on Beacon Hill – a very exclusive area in Boston.

Beacon Hill

Gas lit lamps adorned the streets.

These are just a few of the many fascinating architecture designs and interesting buildings that we saw as we wandered around:

The obelisk that marks the site of the Battle of Bunker Hill was the first obelisk built in America.  It was the tallest in the U.S. for a few years, until the Washington Monument overtook it in 1884.

We climbed the 294 steps of the Bunker Hill Monument and were rewarded with awesome views of Boston in all directions.

 Bunker Hill Monument Views

View from Bunker Hill Monument  Obelisk

Zakim Bridge, Boston

View of the beautiful Zakim Bridge and the Boston skyline.

We met up with my girlfriend Sharon, whom I used to work with in California. It was great seeing her again and we enjoyed our short time together.  We picked a great historic place to meet for lunch – claiming to be the oldest restaurant in the United States – Ye Olde Union Oyster House.  Open to diners since 1826, it was listed as a National Historic Landmark on May 27, 2003.

Union Oyster House

Lunch with Sharon at the historic Union Oyster House.

Finally, I grabbed another tourist to capture our last pose in Boston:

Downtown Boston

Downtown Boston

We hopped back on the Green Line of “the T”, Boston’s Rapid Transit System.  It was all too soon to bid adieu to one of the oldest cities in America.

Green Line

Aboard Boston’s Rapid Transit System

While visiting Boston we stayed at the Boston Minuteman Campground.  Click here if you are interested in Steve’s review of this nice RV park.

Next Up:  A great day on Block Island, RI

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